Gavin Rossdale talks pandemic parenting and why oldest son Kingston is a 'new, improved version' of himself

·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
Kingston Rossdale surprises his dad on Instagram Live. (Photo: Instagram)
Kingston Rossdale surprises his dad on Instagram Live. (Photo: Instagram)

In the lead-up to the release of Bush’s eighth album, The Kingdom, frontman Gavin Rossdale has been doing weekly Instagram Live broadcasts, taking questions and even song requests from his virtual audience. The alt-rock heartthrob says screening the Q&A has been an amusing challenge due to the “very, very sexy comments” (“I have to leave out the X-rated parts,” he chuckles), and admits that when he started actually inviting fans to join the IG Live chats, he was worried that he was “going to get Freddy Krueger — some terrible person lurking to kill me — or a heckler.” But during last weekend’s live-stream, Rossdale got a pleasant surprise, when his oldest son, 14-year-old Kingston, logged on while quarantining with mother Gwen Stefani and her boyfriend Blake Shelton at Shelton’s Oklahoma ranch.

However, Rossdale hesitated before allowing Kingston to be part of the show. “One morning I saw Kingston was on there and thought, ‘I don't want to do that,’” Rossdale tells Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume from his home in Los Angeles. “But he's just a certain stage of his life where he really wants to do stuff like that and wants to be on there with me and he’s loving it; he’s got his own [Instagram] page. He's just kind of waking up to life as a young adult. And so I go on there, and we just had a great time. It’s like leaping off of a stage and just swan-diving into a crowd: Either you land on the floor, on your head, and in trouble, or you get caught and beautifully passed around and floated around and you go back onstage. This felt like successful dive. And he did great.” (Kingston shows up around the 26-minute mark in the video below.)

Rossdale calls Kingston his “sidekick” and seems to love the bond they’ve forged since Kingston officially entered teenhood. “It's so beautiful to experience his awakening as a young adult and just this sort of abstract thinking, and things that he wants to do with his life, and music he loves and bands he loves and lyrics we discuss,” Rossdale gushes. “And he's singing and writing and playing. It's just a really fun time to be around him. He's been obviously a child for 13 years, so for 13 years he was a certain way. Now 14 is this sort of ‘new, improved version’ of me, as I say.” 

Rossdale also reveals that Kingston is Bush’s most important — and possibly toughest — critic. “Thank God The Kingdom is good!” Rossdale laughs. “Because he’s a music critic. He’s a restaurant critic. He is a life critic. He's got great aesthetics. So I'm thrilled that the record is being well-received [by him].”

Rossdale’s middle wild child, Zuma, is also “blossoming all the time,” though Zuma’s adventurous streak has recently resulted in the 11-year-old breaking not one but both of his arms. “Yeah, he’s had a couple accidents. He’s a boy,” Rossdale says. “He fell off a stool at one point, busted his arm, fixed it, had a little splint for it. Then he went bike-riding and wiped out, broke the other arm, ripped his elbow, gashed his leg with the pedal. And that's nothing compared to when he’s in Oklahoma! I've got to get him a Michelin Man suit or something. He’s just a bruiser, you know? He's too brave and crazy. The other two [Kingston and 6-year-old Apollo] are a bit more measured, but this guy is like Evel Knievel!”

During last weekend’s Instagram Live, Kingston asked, "When I come home, can we do one of these? I didn't think you would actually come on!" An enthusiastic Gavin even said that he and the Kingston might perform music together on a future episode, just as long as they rehearsed a bit beforehand. The typical custody arrangement between Rossdale and his ex-wife Stefani has been that they’ve alternated weeks, but after the pandemic hit, their three children went to Oklahoma to isolate. The separation was rough for Rossdale, but he explains that given the limited amount of information about the coronavirus at the time, he thought this decision was for the best.

“Normally it's a week on, week off — that's the standard thing,” he says. “But then there was a time during the middle of the pandemic, when it first was coming down, that we thought we could get it from, you know, walking past a lamppost. So when the offer, the suggestion, came to take [the kids] out of town, it seemed the most logical thing to do, and it seemed the best thing for them. … I felt that that was more of a safe place for them to be.”

Gavin Rossdale with sons Kingston and Zuma in 2011. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
Gavin Rossdale with sons Kingston and Zuma in 2011. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Now the children are alternating longer visits with each parent, and the arrangement is working out well. “We just split it. And then in the summer [the visits] get a bit longer, because it seems like a lot — I think that because they're staying in Oklahoma, it's a lot to ask them to come back one week on, one week off. So it'll be like three weeks there, then they’ll come back for three weeks with me, and then it's just even. [Gwen and I] look at the end of the month and make sure it's even, however it is. Sometimes we've had long stretches because I'm taking them away just to have a little vacation with them, because I asked for that, but it’s all even.” The sons return to L.A. next week, and Rossdale is excited for their next reunion, because even though he is focused this week on promo for The Kingdom, which drops July 17, he says, “I really prefer it when they are here.”

One of the big promotions for The Kingdom is a Saturday live-stream concert at 6 p.m. PT/ 9 p.m. ET on BushOfficial.com that will be a full-production virtual arena show — a far cry from Rossdale’s lo-fi Instagram acoustic sets. The groundbreaking event, the first to be produced by a new live-streaming and fan engagement platform called FanTracks, is in rehearsals now, and Rossdale says, “The potential is endless infinite, production-wise. … It’s consistently evolving, and my dream is that every song looks like something different. It's an incredible thing and I'm really thrilled to work with [FanTracks]. I mean, this is a really efficient way of doing it. In theory, I could go on tour by just popping over to Burbank. I could turn into the Blue Man Group, and just have loads of shows everywhere all at once. … Who knows? It could be the future. We're just happy to be the first one doing it.”

As for the actual future, 50 cents from each copy of The Kingdom sold during the live-stream will be donated to When We All Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization on a mission to increase participation in every election; Bush will also match the total donated by fans. Rossdale is concerned about the general future that awaits his children, throughout this conversation pondering issues like conspiracy theorists, Black Lives Matter, the “dilemma of slaughterhouses in America” and the “overuse of antibiotics,” “the continued problem of climate change and what's happening to the planet,” and anti-maskers. (“People that don’t wear a mask walk through a space like it's their own. It's just so creepy. It's just gross. It's just insensitive. I think it's better when people wear masks because shows an empathy, that you're not tone-deaf to what's going on.”) But he says the young generation makes him feel hopeful.

“We had Black Lives Matter, we had the whole discrimination against minorities, discrimination based on gender and sexuality — all those things that just kind of get in the way of progress. That's one thing I learned from my kids, from my eldest: They have a much more [enlightened mindset] than the adults. It's an impressive time to be a teenager — so much unrest is from young people who are just outraged that so many old people have all these prejudices. I don't think young people want those prejudices,” Rossdale asserts. “And I think it's been a beautiful uprising — 2020, I think, has a potential to be an incredible year for social change. And it's important for us to sustain that, maintain that. … It's really about us about being mindful, and then just being a better person. If we're all 15 percent better than we were, that gives me hope.”

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The above interview is taken from a portion of Gavin Rossdale’s appearance on the SiriusXM show “Volume West.” Full audio of this conversation is available on demand via the SiriusXM app.